How Best to Save a Neighborhood?

This week the Plain Dealer published a series of guest columns that offer different solutions for neighborhoods impacted by vacant or abandoned homes.

On July 7, Jim Rokakis, a Vice-President with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, wrote How Best to Save a Neighborhood: The Case for Demolition. Rokakis advocates for public funding to demolish homes in neighborhoods pockmarked by foreclosures. He wrote, “As distressed properties come down, adjoining property owners will begin to regain some of the lost equity that this crisis has stripped from them, as multiple studies have proven — and continue to prove — that the demolition of distressed properties increases the value of surrounding properties.”

On July 10, Jeffrey Johnson who represents Cleveland Ward 8 on City Council wrote How Best to Save a Neighborhood: The Case for Rehabilitation. Johnson argues that “property values are higher next to a rehabilitated house than a garden on a restored vacant lot, and nothing helps prevent foreclosures more than the rehabilitation of nearby vacant houses.”

Also on July 10, the Plain Dealer published a Letter to the Editor by Lou Tisler, Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, a non-profit organization that partners with private and public sectors to provide assistance to people who want to buy a home, fix or save their home. Tisler argues that Selective demolition is helpful, but foreclosure prevention should be the first priority. Neighborhood stabilization “Should not be seen as an either/or situation in regards to demolition or rehabilitation…. For a family suffering through a job loss or a loan nightmare, staying in the home is the first priority. Northeast Ohio is built on stable communities with affordable and quality housing. In both these situations, home matters.”

Tisler goes on to say that, “Pitting housing counseling agencies against neighborhood revitalizationists against preservationists will produce no winners; we must work together.”


3 responses to “How Best to Save a Neighborhood?

  1. Dan Krohmer says:

    Work together should be the focus. Some homes need to come down. The homes that can be saved mostly fall in to the hands of investors. If some of the Hardest Hit Funds were made available to owner occupants for purchase/rehab, we would have home owners rather than tenants. ?????

  2. Each city’s housing inventory shapes this conversation and even in a city like Baltimore with buildings that have stood vacant since the exodus of over 200,000 people in the 1980’s, we debate the issues of demo vs rehab. It isn’t an either/or.

    Thanks for the conversation. Check out our blog post which includes a data map demonstrating the correlation of murders in our city to the areas most blighted with vacants.

  3. Bill Faith says:

    Lou – you have it right.

    Obviously foreclosure prevention counseling, selective demolition and redevelopment are all important elements to stabilize and rebuild neighborhoods. But what the PD series of articles and others glossed over is that the most recent debate was really about pushing for increased demolition and redevelopment activities AT THE EXPENSE of an ongoing successful program that is preventing foreclosures in Ohio everyday.

    So the “compromise” that appears to have been reached is that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency will target up to $60 million dollars for selective demolitions in select counties out of the remaining funds Ohio has available in the Hardest Hit Fund. But folks need to understand that this will mean the foreclosure prevention program will be ending 6 to 9 months earlier as a result of this change.

    What really needs to happen is that the Congress and both of our Senators need to fight for funding a much more robust and comprehensive effort to address all of these issues and not continue to pit one solution against the other.

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